The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

April 26, 2009

GaREAT things are happening

Sports facility founder announces title sponsorship of Mentor endurance athlete

By SHELLEY TERRY - Staff Writer -

GENEVA — Endurance athlete Katie Spotz trains daily for her biggest challenge to date — becoming the youngest person to row solo across an ocean and the first American to row from Africa to South America.

Spotz, 22, of Mentor, plans to row 2,500 miles across the Atlantic Ocean in 70-100 days to raise money for the Blue Planet Run Foundation. The foundation provides poor communities access to clean drinking water. Her adventure is scheduled to begin in December.

Between now and then, Spotz will train on Lake Erie through October.

“I love adventure,” Spotz said. “I love challenges, especially challenges where you push your mind over matter.”

Not too long ago, Geneva Area Recreational, Educational, Athletic Trust (GaREAT) founder Ron Clutter read about Spotz’s quest in a magazine. He couldn’t wait to meet her.

“I couldn’t believe she’s right here in northeast Ohio,” he said. “She’s an adventurer, a role model and she perfectly fits in with GaREAT.”

Clutter called her and invited her to GaREAT.

After hearing her amazing story, goals, and reasons behind her goals, GaREAT committed to be the title sponsor for her ocean trek, Clutter said Saturday morning during a press conference at GaREAT, 1822 S. Broadway.

“Katie is the GaREAT girl,” he said. “She is doing some things that are unbelievable.”

The cross-ocean adventure won’t be Spotz’s first athletic triumph. After graduating from Warren Wilson College in Swannanoa Valley, N.C., with a degree in business and economy, Spotz became the first person to swim the entire 352-mile Allegheny River. The month-long swim through upstate New York and Pennsylvania also benefited Blue Planet Run Foundation.

In 2006, she bicycled across the U.S. to benefit the American Lung Association in memory of her grandmother.

She also ran across the Mojave and Colorado Desert and competed in a 62-mile ultra marathon in Melbourne, Australia.

With an athletic drive for endurance and a passion for helping others, it seems like nothing can stand in her way.

“We are just very proud to have her be a part of GaREAT,” said Dave Smalley, director of operations.

Reporter’s note: Before the press conference, Spotz talked about sporting events at GaREAT and the soon-to-be-built 5,500-seat stadium. She mentioned she was a Cleveland Browns fan. Spotz later learned Josh Cribbs of the Cleveland Browns was scheduled to attend the press conference, but a family emergency changed his plans. He did, however, donate $500 to her cause.